Ray's Blog

The ministry of advocacy

In a blog post entitled “4 Types of Mercy”, Matt Perman proposes that four mercies are to be discerned in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  They are:

  1. Advocacy
  2. Assistance
  3. Finances
  4. Spiritual

Matt continues: “When we think of showing mercy and serving others, we don’t often think of advocacy.  But it is often a critical, and simple, form of mercy.  Just advocating for the person — taking up their cause, defending them, supporting them, advocating for them.

Advocacy is different than encouragement.  Encouragement is something you do to the person — building them up and strengthening them with your words.  Advocacy is something you do for them in relation to others.  When the real need is advocacy, encouragement alone can come across as hollow.  On the other hand, real and sincere advocacy is a very encouraging thing.”

Advocacy is also evident in the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18.  The parable is about prayer (verse 1).  A widow has been wronged.  She keeps appealing to an unjust judge, “Give me justice against my adversary” (verse 3).  Eventually, he gives in, does the right thing, and stands up for her.  The Lord’s point, of course, is that God is not an unjust but a just Judge.  How much more should we keep praying to him.  He will be just.  The only question is, Do we believe that enough to keep praying, even until Jesus returns (verse 8)?

The parable also implies the advocacy we should assert for powerless people.  Every one of us knows someone who has suffered wrong, someone who needs and deserves justice.  If we say, “But justice is a misguided goal,” then we should read the parable again.  The key word in the text is “justice,” appearing four times.  Justice is the very thing Jesus makes prominent.  Or if we say, “But there is always wrong on both sides,” then we should read the parable again.  Jesus includes no hint that the widow too was at fault.  For that matter, what about Cain and Abel, Saul and David, Ahab and Naboth, Paul and Alexander the coppersmith, and so many others throughout the Bible?  Let’s not allow glib slogans to undermine both our relationships with one another and, even more, our understanding of the gospel itself.  Justice is essential to the gospel (Romans 3:21-26).

As in Saliger’s famous painting above, advocacy turns the abstract ideal of justice into a practical reality for an accused person when everything is on the line.  To hold back from advocacy, to keep a low profile until the storm blows over, to keep quiet, to adopt a “wait and see” neutrality when an accused person justly needs courageous advocacy — to stand by in silence when we could make a real difference for a person under fire is cowardice.

Who needs your clear, biblical, courageous, non-angry, Christlike advocacy today?

This post was originally published on The Gospel Coalition